So glad that you guys have enjoyed the first recap of my trip. Now time for the second part- Porto and then Lagos.
First up, is Porto.
I found Porto to be a very interesting spot to visit. When we were checking into our hotel, the woman told us how a lot of people had moved out of Porto in the past, and were living in surrounding areas. She said that it was only in the past 10-15 years ago that people started to move back to Porto, as a result of the tourist boom, and therefore there is now a lot of construction happening. Walking around Porto, you could really see that the city is in a state of change. There are old, beautiful churches and then half a block later, there are run down houses. It was very diverse, which added to the character of the city.
We arrived mid-day and I knew exactly where my first stop was going to be. J.K. Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter in Porto, and there is a bookstore there, known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, which inspired her bookstore in the story. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I knew I had to check it out.
I don’t think my pictures capture how pretty it was. There were stain glass windows on the second floor, and the stair case with the red paint and two directions, was so cool. There was also an old school cash register on the second floor, and a coffee shop where you could order a snack and a coffee and sit for awhile and enjoy the beauty of the site.
On our way back from the bookstore, we took a wrong turn trying to get back to our hotel. The streets often have splits in them, where rather than having an option to go left, right, straight, you end up having about 5 different choices. As such, it is very easy to get turned around. However, this wrong turn ended up working out really well for us, as we ended up finding a vantage point to look out over Porto and enjoy the beauty of the city.
As we had travelled that morning, with an early morning flight, we were feeling more tired that first night, so we chose to have a very lazy evening. Everyone speaks out about the fresh fish in Porto, so we searched for sushi on my 4Square app, and went to order some take away. That night we stayed in at the hotel, had a bottle of green wine, ate sushi, and watched Pitch Perfect (as my mom had never seen it, and it’s one of the only movies I have on my iPad).
The next morning, feeling refreshed after a night in, we started the day out by heading to another hot spot of Porto. There is a large tower in the middle of the city, which is the highest point of Porto. We were told that it was a must-do while on our trip. Therefore, first thing, we climbed up all the stairs to the top to enjoy the view.
After which, we went to the next stop on our tourist-y day, and went down along the water. Porto is right on the Douro river, and the area in the front is an UNESCO world heritage site, as the district at the water edge (Ribiera) hails from a medieval time. It was a beautiful walk along the water to see the sites, as well as there were tables with locals selling hats, and scarves, and other small trinkets.
A bit of a ways down where we were walking, we came across a pedestrian bridge. This bridge was built by the same individual who also built the Eiffel Tower. At the time (1875ish), the bridge was very difficult to build, due to the length it needed to span, and the quick pace of the river below. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built after this bridge was constructed, which I found interesting.
I think the picture below sums up the side streets you see in Porto. On a lot of holidays that I’ve been on, the tourist areas seem further removed from the actual people who live in those areas. However, Porto felt very lived in. My mom couldn’t stop commenting on the graffiti that was everywhere, but I couldn’t imagine living in the little spaces that appeared to people’s homes. It felt very real being in Porto.
When we had checked into our hotel, the woman checking us in had told us where to go on Saturday night, so that we could listen to some Fado music. Fado music is a music genre which hails from Portugal, and amongst the Portuguese, is known as being very emotional and can be very sad. We had been told that when listening to Fado music, to show respect, all conversation should stop, until the singer is done. Unfortunately, we had ended up in a more touristy area to listen to it, so no one else at the restaurant seemed to have received the memo that they were supposed to stop speaking when the performers were out. As a result, the restaurant was quite loud, and I can’t say I actually heard much of the music.
We enjoyed our meal, and headed home pretty early that night.
The next day was May 10, Mother’s Day (at least, Mother’s Day for North Americans). I was quite excited when I had realised that I would be spending Mother’s Day with my mom, as I moved out on my own when I was 18, and I think that’s probably been the last time I actually got to spend Mother’s Day with my mom. Because of this, I had planned a great day for us.
Porto is where port wine comes from, which is a fortified type of wine. There are areas all over the city that you can complete a tasting, but I made a lunch reservation at Taylor’s, which was a company I was familiar with, despite not knowing much about port so seemed like a safe bet. I had also booked us for completing a tour and port tasting while there. I was so excited to have this great day to celebrate my mom. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.
I can be quite sensitive to the heat, and had spent the past 8 days in the sun, drinking minimal water. At that point, it was obviously too much for my body, as I woke up on Sunday and felt terrible. I thought it was going to go away, so I ignored it for the first couple of hours of the day. However, when we were walking towards Taylor’s (which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel), I admitted to my mom how awful I was feeling. I was feeling nauseous, and light-headed, and just generally crappy. I still insisted that it would go away, so we went up to the restaurant anyways. When I had booked the initial trip, I had planned that we would enjoy multiple courses, maybe a different drink with each course for the ultimate pairing. However, the reality ended up being that all food made me feel even worse, and I ended up ordering the plainest thing I could find on the menu (which was a vegetarian meal of quinoa, vegetables and some vegetable broth) and had only water. Even then, I ate about half of my meal, which was done more from sheer will, than actually enjoying the food. I wanted my mom to enjoy the tour and tasting, so I tried insisting that we still go on for the rest of the day’s plans, but she would hear none of it. She insisted that we go back to the hotel, where I could lie down. So instead of this amazing day at Taylor’s, we ended up being there for about 2 hours, before going back to the hotel and I drank a bunch of juice, water, and took a couple hour nap. It was really disappointing, but happens sometimes- we all get sick, even while on holiday.
I woke up at about 5 pm, and felt much better, so we decided to go out around town, since it was the last evening we would be there, and explore a bit more. We wandered through a church which the interior was decorated in gold (it’s estimated there is 400 kg of gold in the inside), unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside, so I don’t have any (though if you’re interested to see it, I recommend googling Sao Francisco church- I couldn’t find a good website with a bunch of images). We also saw other beautiful churches, which had stunning blue and white tiles in the exterior, sometimes as many as 10,000 tiles.
We ended up walking by an independently owned wine/port shop which was open, and peaked our heads in for an impromptu tasting, so at least in the end, we did get to taste some port.
We had a quick bite to eat that night, and then were off to bed very early, as the next day we had a very early morning flight to the South of Portugal, down to Lagos. We got there by flying to Faro, and then we had transportation to take us the rest of the way (as Lagos is about an hour from Faro). I had rented us a transportation van with a company, which guaranteed that there would be no more than 4 other spots. It cost us about $20 each, however, if I could go back in time, I would’ve paid the extra amount to have the hotel arrange a direct pick-up. We ended up having to wait at the airport for another 40 minutes till the van was ready to go, and then the driver couldn’t find our hotel in Lagos so we lost another hour while he drove around trying to figure it out. It was a very frustrating morning, for sure.
However, it all made it worthwhile once we dropped off our bags, checked into our hotel, and went for lunch to this stunning view.
Last year, when my mom and I went to Greece, I started our trip in Athens, and then ended it on the relaxing island of Santorini. My mom had said she enjoyed having the beach portion of our trip at the end, as it ended the trip feeling very relaxing and recharging, so I aimed to do the same for this trip. However, I wish I would’ve planned an extra day here. I had looked at it when planning for what we would do while there, and there isn’t actually much to do or see in Lagos, so I assumed 2 days would be enough time. But both of us were wishing we had more time to just relax, and do nothing, and an extra day would’ve been much better.
However, we did pretty well with trying to enjoy as much as we could. After our lunch, we went for a hike through the cliffs. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the water, and the rock formations, it was so beautiful. South Portugal is also very warm, and that first day was 30, but had a nice breeze. After learning my lesson in Porto, I had bought a hat to keep the sun off my head, as well as I went everywhere with a large water bottle to ensure I didn’t overheat again and have to miss out on the beauty of this place.
That first night, we just wandered into town and had food in the town. We were up early again the next day, and found our way to the beautiful beach in town. We spent most of the morning just wandering along the sand, occasionally getting our ankles wet (as the water was very cold, despite it being 34 the second day). After a while, we sat along the beach, and just enjoyed hearing the waves crash over the sand.
We had been told that marzipan was a must-eat thing while there, so I enjoyed a sheep-shaped marizapan treat (with a bit of colour on my skin despite the SPF 30 I had worn)
The next day, our train was taking us back to Lisbon at 5 pm, so we knew we had to optimise our final day there. We got up in the morning, had an orange for breakfast (the oranges grow in Portugal so were very juicy and fresh), and then headed back to the beach. This beach was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. In the picture below, you can see a beach in the background, which was the beach we had been at the day before.
We ended our time in Lagos having an amazing lunch of shrimp at a restaurant overlooking the water. We had seen people eating it the day before, but had mistaken it for being lobster since the prawns were so large. It was so delicious, and the perfect end to the beach portion of our holiday.
The end of our time in Lagos was largely the end of our Portugal trip. I had heard the train was a great way to travel in Portugal, but I can’t say I saw much. Though that is likely because I mostly read my book and napped for the 4 hour train journey back to Lisbon. That night we stayed at a hotel by the airport, as my mom’s flight left at 7 am the next day, and mine left at 9 am to take me to Belgium. I got up with her so that we could have a final good-bye at the airport (always very sad).
Then, after killing just a few hours at the airport, it was time for me to board my flight and head off to the final bit of my trip- Belgium
I’ll have a post up later this week with the final segment of my trip, Belgium!